We woke up in the middle of chaos. There were people everywhere, twenty grown-ups and twice as many children of all sizes and colours running around and yelling. Someone was making sure that all the children got washed, and someone else that everybody got something to eat and drink, and yet another person that all the children who needed to go to school were off in time, and suddenly we found ourselves outside the house being shooed out by an Ishey woman who said goodbye to us.
“Wait!” Rovin said, “Veh asked me to come with him today!” And he hugged us and went back into the house.
“Well, that’s one of us apprenticed,” Vurian said. “I’ll enroll myself in the school first, and then I’ll show you round the school and the hospital.”
“And we can see Doctor Cora!” Riei said.
“She’s not an attraction — well, yes, she is, she’s the most beautiful woman in the world. I still don’t know how my uncle managed to marry her.”
“But I’d like to meet Doctor Cora,” I said. “Isn’t she the best doctor in the world, as well?”
“She is!” Vurian said. “Here’s the school.” It looked as if had been someone’s house once, the same kind as Grandpa Vurian’s house but much larger, a courtyard with a couple of large buildings around it. We didn’t go into the courtyard but Vurian knocked at the front door and a girl opened it.
“New students?” she asked, and when she noticed Riei, “You, too?”
“No, not me,” Riei said, and I pointed at Vurian and said “Only him.”
“Not even you?”
“No, I’m going to school in Veray. The inventors’ school.”
She sniffed and took us to a room where the head of the school was ready to enroll new students — and of course it was Grandma Rava! But she didn’t treat Vurian like her grandson, just like the head of the trade school in Essle had treated me.
Then Vurian gave us a tour of the school: the dormitories, the classrooms, the stables, the refectory which was also a temple of Anshen, the kitchen. The library! I’d never seen so many books in the same place, not even at the palace. The first thing I saw was a large book open on a stand, with drawings of the works of a mill! “Can I look at that?” I asked the woman with greying red hair who I thought was the librarian. “If you leave it open at the same place afterwards,” she said. “And let me look at your hands.”
My hands were clean enough, and I paged through the book and saw that it was about all different kind of mills and said, “I’ll probably be back from Veray to use that book sooner or later!”
“Or go to some mills and make your own drawings,” she said, and I thought that was a good idea too. “Are there a lot of mills around Veray?” I asked.
“Yes, water-mills, windmills, donkey-mills.”
“Poor donkey!” I said. “At least the wind doesn’t get tired.”
“Oh, are you sure?” Riei asked. “Why else would it stop blowing sometimes?”
“Water doesn’t get tired, then.” I stuck out my tongue at her.
The hospital was right next to the school. And in a small room we found a woman lying on a straw bed, fast asleep and completely naked. Standing up, she must have been shorter than Riei, not much taller than me. This must be Doctor Cora! And yes, she was very beautiful. Vurian was overwhelmed, Riei and I squeezed each other’s hands.
“I think she’s been working through the night,” Vurian said. “She has to — well, because of the way she’s made, and the way she’s been taught, she can’t get power from the world, people have to give it to her. It always wears her out completely. And the people who give it to her as well.”
We stood looking at Doctor Cora for a while, but she didn’t wake up by herself yet, and of course we didn’t want to wake her, so Vurian said, “Let’s go and have something to eat, and a bath!” and we all went outside.
“Eat first, or bath first?” I asked. “I’m not staying twelve days to see all the bath-houses, so which one shall we try?”
“Well, I know only two bath-houses really,” Vurian said, “the ordinary one that’s right between the school and Grandfather’s house, and the Síthi bath on the north side but that’s quite a long walk.”
“Let’s take the near one then,” Riei said. “And eat first, I’m getting hungry!”
So we had little pasties that a couple of Síthi children sold from a stall (some had fish or meat in them, though, and Vurian teased them about that) and apple-wine that a woman sold at a table in front of a nearby inn. Then we were definitely greasy and sticky enough for the bath!
And now that Vurian had seen Doctor Cora without any clothes on, he still looked at Riei’s tits, but not the same way any more, I noticed that. “Hey, Riei,” he said, “you know, in four years, if I still feel the same way that I do now, I might want to marry your sister.”
Riei nodded, and Vurian went on, “Not that I don’t like you! Both of you! But…”
“We’re your friends,” I said. “And now we’ve been travelling together, even better friends.”
“Exactly. Working with Arni in Valdis felt so normal, as if it was what we were both made for!”
“Like me and Rovin,” I said.
“Arni and I can do it with our minds, though, and Rovin can’t.”
“But he thinks the same way I do, that’s why I lent him my notebook, his brain works like mine so he could understand most of what I’d written.”
Vurian grinned. “Yes, that, you know what I’m talking about. I just wanted to make sure that I’m not in love with you or anything.”
I put an arm around Riei’s middle, and she took it and squeezed it. “Before I’ll fall in love with any boy a lot of stuff needs to happen that I don’t want to happen!” she said.
That evening was our last in Lord Vurian and Lady Rava’s house, with a lot of people at the table and very noble food. When we said we wanted to leave for Veray early the next morning, Lady Rava promised to give us the address of a place where we would be safe and comfortable for a couple of days while we found somewhere to live. “I could send you to the castle,” she said, “but I think this will be better. Though there’s a decent baron now, the previous one was — well, inadequate. He took money from the people for himself.”
“Oh, like the one in Three Hills that the queen got rid of,” I said.
“That wasn’t a barony before my daughter made it so,” Lady Rava said. “It was just a local man lording it over the town.”
Vurian had gone right back to the Ishey house, and his grandparents had sent his things there. We went to bed early because we wanted to get up early, and i said to Riei, “I’m so looking forward to having our own room in Veray! Do our own shopping and cooking and stuff!”
“What I’m most looking forward to,” she said, “is travelling together, just the two of us, we’ve never done that yet! Even though it’s only two days.”